Showing posts with label Kingkiller Chronicles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kingkiller Chronicles. Show all posts

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Everything Cool is Impossible

Physics has known for a long time how to build a time machine.  The possibility in a real spacetime geometry was first noted by Van Stockum, but this possibility was only really first analyzed by Frank Tipler in the 70's.  All you need is a massive rotating cylinder.  And also it has to be infinitely long.

This illustrates how frame dragging
can lead to time travel 
Since then, at least a dozen other possibilities have been proposed for time travel to the past, and physicists have proven that these spacetime geometries result in what are called "Closed Timelike Curves" (CTCs), which are trajectories a massive object could follow to go back in to its own past.  We know that they would work within the theory of General Relativity.  But, they're all impossible.  They either require the universe to be rotating (it isn't), they require infinitely large systems (we can't make them), they require negative-mass matter (no such matter exists), or they require you perform your time travel within the interior event horizon of a Kerr black hole (which is fine, but then you can't leave).

This situation is worse than merely having a concept of physics that excludes time travel, or that merely says that time travel is impossible.  For if time travel was excluded by theory, then we could always say the theory was incomplete.  What we have instead is a system that fully allows time travel possibilities without prejudice, as long as we're able to break some other law of physics to get there.  It's not just the stubborn "no" of a parental figure; it's like having your parents describe step-by-step exactly what you can do to eat chocolate cake for breakfast, and one of those steps is "eat infinite broccoli".

Physics also knows how to effect FTL travel.  The speed of light puts a prohibitive barrier on
our ability to explore the stars, but a number of work-arounds have been proposed.  Technically, relativity only prohibits local FTL movement, but says nothing of global FTL travel.  So if you can distort space and time in just the right way, you can move however fast you want.  One of the more frequently explored proposals is wormhole travel.    Wormholes produce a kind of "short cut" in spacetime, and it is actually a Federal Law that when you want to discuss how wormholes work you must draw two dots on a sheet of paper, "A" and "B", draw the straight line connecting them, then fold your paper so "A" and "B" touch and jab a pencil through it.  While going along the line you draw may take billions of years, going through the wormhole may take minutes.
My lawyers also recommend I show you this diagram

Sadly, you can't make a wormhole.  And even if you made a wormhole, the throat collapses when you try to travel inside of it, so you can't even use the wormhole for travel anyway.

Another proposal is the Alcubierre warpdrive.  This contracts spacetime in the front and expands it in the back, producing what some call a "wave" of spacetime contraction that "tips over" the light cones inside the warp bubble.  Locally, you're moving slower than light, but globally you may be moving, in theory anyway, as fast as you want.

But you can't make the Alcubierre warp drive either.  If you took the mass of the universe and made it negative, the Alcubierre warp drive requires ten times that number in negative-mass matter to move a standard-sized spaceship.   To clarify, we haven't even found one single particle of negative-mass matter.

Science knows how to make a Bag of Holding, and can even make a Bag of Holding that slows down time (see chapter 3 here).  You can store a lifetime supply of hot pies and ice cream in the same box, and whenever you take them out the pie is still oven-fresh and the ice cream still ice cold, and so even twenty years later you can serve yourself delicious pie a la mode.  But, like so many awesome things, it requires either negative mass or impossible mater distributions and can't be made.

I just made a post about how the Bag of Holding (aka, Van den Broeck Bubble) can be exploited to, potentially, travel to parallel worlds (if any even exist).  This one is a lot more speculative, requiring ideas way beyond established science, but is at least partially based in what we already know about general relativity and curved-space geometry.  It isn't really scientific, but if we wanted to know if there were other universes, this has potential to actually find them.  But it also requires not only negative mass, but infinitely much of it.  So we won't ever be able to try.

Pictured: A guy wearing a green screen.
Not Pictured: An invisibility cloak 
Science has pretty recently discovered (less than ten years ago) how to make a literal cloak of invisibility.  It involves bending light in just the right way.  We know what that just-the-right-way way is, and we even know how to make materials that bend light in just that way.  Sadly, it only works for a single frequency (i.e. color) of light at a time.  There's no way to be completely invisible, because there don't exist materials with  the right optical properties naturally.  So you can be green-invisible, but you'll still be perfectly visible in red and blue.  I guess you'll just look slightly more purple?

I recently calculated (as part of my research) how to make a slightly different kind of cloak, namely a shadow cloak.  Also something you'd read about in fantasy books, the shadow cloak works on the same spacetime distortion principle as for a black hole, but now modified to work with optical materials (so not requiring it be made of actual black holes).  A perfect realization  would allow light to enter, but trap it there.  If you were wearing it, you would appear to be not just covered in a black garment, but actually swathed in shadows.  (Look at a black object, then look at an unlit hole; there's a big visual difference)  You'd also probably heat up a lot (since all the energy is trapped), which would make this kind of material perfect for solar panels, increasing their efficiency probably to near 100%.  But you can't make the shadow cloak, because it requires material parameters that are both infinite and negatively infinite.  Like with the invisibility cloak, you can only realize this (if at all) for a single color of light at a time.  Which vastly diminishes its coolness.

You can probably see where my knowledge tends to specialize, but physics knows a lot more cool things in the quantum domain, such as teleportation devices and solutions to the P=NP problem.  All of which, we know how it would work, and only minor technicalities render it impossible.  Things like wavefunction collapse, quantum decoherence, and the no-cloning theorem.

Any time there's something cool in physics, there's something else that renders it impossible.

Again, this isn't the situation of wanting to do something incredible and merely lacking a theoretical model to describe it.  Our formulations of physics account for it exactly.

It's just that all the cool stuff is impossible.

More and more, it just seems like the Universe comes equipped with fail-safes against our ever doing the cool things of science fiction.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Kingkiller Chronicles Speculation: Why Can't Kvothe Do Magic?

There's a certain type of book series that offers the reader the chance to be a detective; the entire world of the series is a mystery whose origins lie shrouded in a mist of narrative, yet enough light pierces that veil to allow the attentive reader to glimpse the nature of things.

The Kingkiller Chronicles is just such a series, perhaps the best such series.  It is written by a very talented writer, and it is already finished; every twist in the plot is already written in a manuscript, and Rothfuss is largely just fixing diction at this point (which is still taking him agonizingly long).  Further, the future of the series is already known; we know the end of the story, where Kvothe becomes the humble innkeeper of Nevarre and the world is torn apart by demon spiders, and we know that the rest of the story is going to explain how all of this happened.

So, as I have done in the past, I would like to take a moment to wildly speculate about the series.

There are, of course, SPOILERS.  Please do not read this until you have read the first two books, and thoroughly.  Try to piece things together for yourself, or you're missing half the fun of the series.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Kingkiller Chronicles Speculation: The King and Caesura

I am continuing my speculation on the fantastic series, the Kingkiller Chronicles.  I've discussed Denna, the identity of Master Ash, the use of Copper, and what the plan of the Chandrian might be.

In this post, I want to look at the title "Kingkiller", and the name "Poet-killer" given to the sword Caesura.

Obviously, Kvothe is called Kingkiller because he kills at least one king.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Kingkiller Chronicles Speculation: the Chandrian and Their Plan

I'm going to continue speculating about the Kingkiller Chronicles.  I have already covered Master Ash and what I think copper is used for.

SPOILERS AHEAD!  Please don't read unless you have read both of the books, and thoroughly at that.

Very early in the first book, before we even know who the silent innkeeper is, we hear about the Chandrian.  From the story, we quickly pick up that they are some sort of evil sorcerers with eery powers.  We learn some weird stuff, like fires going blue and metal rusting, but most importantly is the children's rhyme:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Kingkiller Chronicles Speculation: Copper

SPOILERS AHEAD!  Please don't read if you haven't read both Name of the Wind and Wise Man's Fear.

I am going to continue posting my own speculation about the Kingkiller Chronicles.  In a spasm of fanboy insanity, I had written up some twenty or so pages detailing everything I think I had deduced from the text.  Recently, in his own blog, Patrick Rothfuss brought up a totally awesome copper knife a fan had made him, noting that it would be good in a fight against a Namer.  Rothfuss said this showed the fans had been paying attention.  I was glad to see that apparently I had been paying attention too, and that others (in the comments) had noted things similar to me on the use and possible function of copper in the books.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Kingkiller Chronicles Speculation: Denna and Her Patron

This is the first in what may be a series of posts speculating on characters and events in the Kingkiller Chronicles.

SPOILER DENSE!  Contains tons of things from the first two books in the series.  Please don't read unless you've read both books carefully yourself.

As has been noted, the Kingkiller Chronicles leave open the unique opportunity of an unfinished epic fantasy series with a solid and fixed resolution.  We know that whatever happens in the third book will bring us to the Waystone Inn.  We know that Kvothe will trick a demon and kill an angel, and then kill a king, and somehow start the entire war with the Penitent King.  We know that something is going to happen to unleash fairy creatures in to the world.  The whole series has already been written (and is just being revised), so there are definite hints and foreshadows and the material can be trusted to lead somewhere. It's like a murder mystery in that regard.

Seeing the unique opportunity, I decided to wildly speculate, as have so many other fans.

In this post, I will focus on Denna.  It is long.